Slow Cooker Dill Pickle Soup

This time of year we crave a good belly warming soup — and homemade soup is even better if you let it simmer away in the slow cooker while you’re out skiing or playing in the snow. The feeling of coming how to a warm crock of soup is one of the best parts of winter.

This recipe for Dill Pickle Soup is from our 2016 book The Family Slow Cooker. While the flavour may seem odd (yes, you do put the pickle brine right in the soup!), it’s actually surprisingly hearty and delicious. Give it a try — you can adjust the amount of brine you use to your own tastes, but we think the more brine the better! Read More

Samarna’s Mutthiya Kebabs

My sister works with plenty of great cooks, but Samarna stands out as a truly exceptional home cook – she invited me to her kitchen earlier this year to cook, and made the most amazing ground meat kebabs – like large meatballs she shaped in the palm of her hands. They were simple, but delicious – you could make them with ground beef or lamb, and mix together a quick tzatziki to dip them in or dribble overtop. The perfect kind of food when you have a few extra people at the table.

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Slow Cooker Jelly Meatballs

Like a lot of readers, we love so many of the original ladies’ entertaining recipes. For example, no matter how cooking trends change, if there’s a dish of Jelly Meatballs on a buffet table, we’re going to grab a toothpick and eat at least a couple of them. Simple and convenient to make, the jelly ball may just be the perfect holiday appetizer.

When we put together our Family Slow Cooker book last year, we wanted to include some of these original recipes, cooked up in a slow cooker for even more convenience. The original Jelly Balls recipe, which appeared in the Winners Book (and can still be found in the Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks Volume 2) were cooked in a pot and then served in a chafing dish, but this version is done completely in a slow cooker. We also use frozen fully cooked meatballs to make things even easier. If you want to add some heat, throw in a couple of tablespoons of sambal oelek with the jelly. Read More

Creamy Chicken, Corn & Vegetable Chowder

With so many veggies at their peak in the fall, it’s a great time to make a hearty bowl of chowder. This recipe makes great use of leftover roasted turkey and stock, too – often we’ll just use a meaty stock that has not been strained, rather than measure out leftover roast chicken or turkey. This soup is equally delicious with leftover chopped ham in place of the chicken.

As with most soups, ingredients can be played with and measurements are approximate – use what you like, add more carrots if you like carrots, add a handful of baby spinach (we did, when we reheated the leftovers) or chopped kale or chard. Soup is infinitely versatile, inexpensive, and can be frozen for a quick meal down the road.

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Herbed Bulgur Salad

 

Herbed Bulgur Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup dry bulgur (cracked wheat)
  2. 1 cup boiling water
  3. big handfuls of fresh parsley and cilantro, leaves pulled off the stems and coarsely chopped (a bunch or two)
  4. a smaller handful of mint and/or dill
  5. a small handful of chopped toasted walnuts
  6. juice of a big, juicy lemon
  7. a good drizzle of good olive oil
  8. if you like: tiny tomatoes, crumbled feta, shaved cucumber
Instructions
  1. Put the dry bulgur into a bowl and pour the boiling water overtop; cover with a plate and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Pour off any water than hasn't been absorbed (I like to do this in a sieve, shaking it to make sure all excess moisture is gone) and transfer to a bowl and set aside or in the fridge to cool.
  2. Add the herbs, squeeze over the lemon juice and a good glug of oil, toss and add the toasted walnuts (and anything else you think would taste good). Serves 4-6ish.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Many people overlook fresh herbs as a potential salad ingredient – classic Middle Eastern tabbouleh is a notable exception, loaded with flat-leaf parsley, grains and typically cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s a perfect candidate if you have all three growing in your back yard (or at their peak at the farmers’ market), but if you want to make use of a wider variety of herbs, this leafy, herb-heavy bulgur salad is packed with green goodness: parsley, cilantro, mint and dill, but you could use anything you have on hand and love. 

This salad is simple to make – bulgur is simply soaked in boiling water, so you can plug in the kettle and don’t even need to put a pot on the stove. A squeeze of lemon gives it a brightness and brings out all the green, herbal flavours, and a drizzle of olive oil adds richness, healthy fats, and smooths everything out. We added a handful of chopped toasted walnuts, but pine nuts would  be delicious too. Feel free to add tomatoes and cukes to make it more like a classic tabbouleh.

OctoberFeast in Calgary

This is the time of year that we start thinking not only about winter and fall comfort food, but also about making sure that others in our community have something warm and wholesome in their bellies. Food banks across the country are about to kick into food-dive mode and thankfully, many of us are feeling more generous with our cash donations and canned goods as we get closer to the holidays.

Right now the Calgary Food Bank is in the middle of an event called OctoberFeast. Participating restaurants in Calgary have accepted a challenge to create dishes that use two or more ingredients from the Food Bank’s list of most needed items, which includes things like pasta, soup, canned fruits and veggies, canned fish and meat, peanut butter, rice and cereal. Some of our favourite local restaurants like Alloy, Avec Bistro, Naina’s Kitchen, Tavernetta, Without Papers and The Beltliner Diner are all participating and they’re really putting out some great dishes. The dishes will all be available until October 15 (that’s the end of this week!) Read More

Winter Slaw

Need a new idea for a crunchy Thanksgiving salad using wintry vegetables? Sure, you could go the kale route, but why not try chopped napa cabbage and thinly sliced or shaved jicama or kohlrabi? Both are fresh and crunchy; kohlrabi is a brassica vegetable and once peeled, tastes like the inside of a broccoli stalk. Jicama is a root vegetable that doesn’t look like much, but is so snappy and fresh tasting you’ll find all kinds of uses for it, from veggie platters to salads.

Measurements here are up to you – use as much of each ingredient as you like, depending on your taste and how many you have to serve. If you like, top with chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, too.

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Creamy Green Sauce

While it can be fun to dress up a piece of grilled meat with a nice marinade, sometimes we like just seasoning meat with salt and pepper and then throwing it on the grill. That said, sometimes it’s nice to have some sauce on the side if your meat needs a little extra flavour.

This fresh-tasting garlicky green sauce is great to have on hand for nights when you’re grilling up a quick steak, pork chop, chicken breast or piece of fish. The fresh herbs got with almost anything and it adds a bit of summer brightness to a backyard meal. It lasts in the fridge for up to a week and whips up in minutes. If you have any leftover, serve it as a dip with raw vegetables for a quick appetizer or snack. Read More

Classic Bolognese

Although it still feels like summer, and we still eat outside when it’s sunny enough, fall is definitely here – back to school time makes me crave those classic dishes from my childhood: shepherds’ pie, chili, classy chicken, and spaghetti loaded with sauce. When we start getting back into the groove of fall schedules, I like to make a habit of preparing twice (or more) as much dinner as we need, and freezing the surplus for an almost instant dinner on another night. A classic bolognese is the perfect candidate for the freezer – and makes use of fall veggies in season, like garlic, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers, if you’re inclined to add any. Or roughly chop a bunch of veggies and skip the meat altogether for a vegetarian bolognese.

This recipe is fairly small, but can be doubled or even tripled for a larger batch – or bulk it up with extra veggies and tomatoes. Often when I have overripe tomatoes I’ll toss them in the freezer whole, then add them to sauces later.

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Inside-Out Chocolate Chip Cookies

Back to school time is cookie season for us – I don’t know whether I make them out of self-preservation or to fill lunchboxes. Everyone needs a little comforting treat when summer comes to an end, and I like baking a batch of cookies on the weekend to wrap and tuck into lunch boxes all week. Sometimes, when I’m really on the ball, I’ll make and freeze balls of dough so I have something to slide into the oven after school – there’s nothing like walking in the door after a long day and the house smells like chocolate. Bonus: with a stash of dough, you can bake a few at a time in the toaster oven, and not have a couple dozen to eat your way through.

To freeze and bake, freeze balls on a sheet and then transfer to a freezer bag; take them out, place them on a parchment-lined sheet and let them sit while the oven preheats, then bake as directed.

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brown butter loaf

Boozy Brown Butter Loaf Cake

brown butter loaf

Brown butter seems to be all the rage these days — for good reason. Cooking butter in a pan so that the milk solids turn a golden brown gives butter a deep and nutty flavour. Brown butter is great over vegetables and adds a unique flavour to baking. We love putting it in this deceptively simple loaf cake. Read More

No-knead Pizza Dough

It’s back-to-school time, when schedules tighten up and there’s suddenly less time to get dinner on the table, but I have good news for you: the no-knead bread that took over the internet a few years ago also makes amazing pizza dough. You can mix it up the night before, and make pizza in minutes when everyone gets home and is ready to eat.

It makes for a wonderfully chewy, bulbous pizza crust – the dough itself is fairly sticky, so use flour to keep it from sticking to your fingers, and parchment or a silpat mat on your baking sheet, unless you have a pizza stone to cook it on.

No-knead Pizza Dough
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (or use whole wheat, or half and half)
  2. 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (instant or regular)
  3. 1 tsp. salt
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap and let it rest on the countertop for 18-24 hours at room temperature.
  2. After that time the surface of the dough will be dotted with bubbles. Generously flour a work surface and scrape the mixture out onto it, gently folding it over itself once or twice, then transfer to a rimmed baking sheet that has been sprinkled with flour or cornmeal. Spread it out with your fingertips until it's a rough oval or rectangle (you may need to sprinkle the top with a little flour too, to keep it from sticking to your fingers), and set it aside while you get your toppings together and preheat the oven to 450°F.
  3. Spread the crust with tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, pesto or anything else you'd like to sauce it with, then top with your choice of toppings and grated cheese.
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly and golden.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

If you’re like us, you’ve got plenty of zucchini hanging around your house right now and are probably getting tired of chopping them up and putting them in stir-fries. Which brings us to one of our favourite classic Best of Bridge recipes: our Chocolate Zucchini Cake. The zucchini makes this cake nice and moist, the chocolate chips give an extra boost of chocolate and a touch of cinnamon adds some complexity to the flavour.

This Chocolate Zucchini Cake first appeared in the original ladies’ 1984 book winners and you can now find it in The Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks Volume 3. But here it is again for easy reference, because we know you need to use up at least some of that zucchini a.s.a.p. Read More

Grilled French Toast

Most often, backyard barbecues are fired up to cook meat – burgers and steak, generally – and almost always used at dinnertime. It’s a shame that such a useful cooking tool rarely sees its full potential – outdoor grills provide high, direct heat that’s ideal for cooking much more than burgers. The fact that cooking outdoors doesn’t heat up the house makes me want to use it all times of the day – including the morning, on weekends when we linger over breakfast.

All types of bread work here, but make sure it’s cut thick – sourdough, multigrain, challah and raisin bread are all delicious, or try cinnamon buns, cut in half crosswise. Whichever bread you choose, it should be at least a day old – fresh bread tends to make mushy French toast. To top it off, grill some peaches, mango or other juicy stone fruit – cut in half or in wedges, pit them and place cut-side down on the grill until softened and grill-marked. Slice overtop, letting the juices mingle with the maple syrup.

Grilled French Toast
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large eggs
  2. 1/2 cup milk
  3. 1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
  4. 4 thick slices day-old bread
  5. Cinnamon (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a shallow bowl, stir the eggs, milk and vanilla together with a fork. Brush the grill with oil and preheat it to medium-high.
  2. Dip each slice of bread in the egg mixture, coating both sides well and letting it soak in. Pick up the slices and let the excess egg drip off; then place them in a baking dish to take them outside. Sprinkle them with cinnamon if you like.
  3. Grill the French toast until it’s until on both sides, about 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second, flipping as necessary. Close the lid to create an oven environment, which will help them cook through. Serve them right away with syrup and fresh fruit, or keep them warm on the top rack of the grill or in a 200°F oven while you cook the rest.
  4. Serves 4.
The Best of Bridge http://www.bestofbridge.com/